Oren Cass ’05 is always at his best when the topic turns to race at Williams. His thoughts on the issues of preferential admissions for athletes and others are worth a read.

Of course, the major comparison that no one wants to talk about is between Affirmative Action and athletic tips. It is fairly remarkable that the College feels comfortable launching the sort of inquisition that it has into the “value” of athletes, while aggressively guarding its minority student data.

For instance, consider this line from the report:

Educationally, the costs are distributed unevenly. They are concentrated in Division 2, and specifically in several large departments. It is, we suggest, unfair to expect students and faculty in a handful of departments to bear disproportionately the costs of our athletic programs in the form of less demanding and less interesting courses than would be mounted otherwise.

[T]hese departments are “bearing the burden” of our athletes? Would we say that departments with disproportionately high concentrations of African-American students are “bearing a burden” (we know from Williams’ Supreme Court brief that only one in three would be admitted without taking race into account). Would we say “it inevitably generates externalities for the rest of the College in the form of weaker students” about our Affirmative Action program? Of course not! Black students from the Upper West Side are diverse. Just look at a photograph. Students who actually differ in any significant way from the rest of the student body? A burden. It’s that simple.

The very fact that the College conducted a survey of student opinions about athletes is noteworthy. Where’s my survey where I can comment on the effects of students admitted because their parents went here, or because their skin is darker than mine? Do we not want to publish those percentages? The College would be absolutely ripped apart if it even asked some of those question.

It would be interesting to read the Supreme Court brief that Cass mentions, but I haven’t been able to find it on-line. The other factor that connects athletic and minority admissions — but not legacy preferences — is the roll on effect that schools like Harvard have. Many of the students in these categories that “should” go to Williams (i.e., that have the academic credentials similar to Williams students but perhaps a notch below Harvard admits) are accepted by Big Three schools. Of course, Williams does the same to schools lower down in the academic pecking order.

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